Two articles came across my bow today, one right after the other, and each pushed my thinking a little farther down a path.
Will writes today about an article he read in BoingBoing by Cory Doctorow rehashing Jon Holt’s How Children Learn. While I’ve not read Doctorow or Holt, Will pulled a quote from Doctorow (as he was discussing Holt’s title) that matched squarely to my experience sitting in for Erica Hartman tonight at Back to School Night:
Most resonant for me was his description of kids’ learning unfolding from the natural passionate obsessions that overtake them.
As an administrator now, I am asked to observe teachers in their practice and give them feedback on specific areas. Like students have preferences, there are some teachers we prefer to observe because of the mindset we leave with–we are reaffirmed, we’ve learned, and we can spread that knowledge to others. Those teachers engage and push, and in many ways provide students with access to a very raw emotion, one we rarely associate with school these days, unfortunately: joy.
What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win the ability to read and write, if in the process the individual lose his own soul? – John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938
Several parents came up to me tonight and said very clearly: “this is not what I remember about school,” after watching Erica‘s remote presentation about our Connections class. And I took great comfort in that. Others remarked that they were so glad that their children were getting the opportunity to push their thinking, and that their son/daughter couldn’t wait for this class because they never know where they will end up by the end of the period. To me that means they are digging it. And to Paul C who commented on Doug’s post, that joy is synonymous with engagement:
I wouldn’t say that all learning is necessarily joyful. Personally if I am engaged in the topic at hand, time flies and I am consumed by my pursuits…
Equip students with the dynamic learning skills necessary to pursue life long quests.
They’ll forget the content but remember the fire.
Doug also posted Steven Wolk’s list of 10 essentials to bring joy into school experiences:
- Find the Pleasure in Learning
- Give Students Choice
- Let Students Create Things
- Show Off Student Work
- Take Time to Tinker
- Make School Spaces Inviting
- Get Outside
- Read Good Books
- Offer More Gym and Arts Classes
- Transform Assessment
After reading those posts, I immediately did two things: first, I followed Doug’s link to his article entitled Designing Research Projects Students Love, and secondly wrote and sent an email to two teachers whose classrooms I have spent some time in this week who completely impressed me with their ability to push their students to joy through whatever means necessary.
They’ll remember the fire. That works for me.